Headlines: February 10th, 2006

Local authority IT managers have given an overwhelming vote of no confidence to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister over its running of the 7 billion pound Local e-Government programme. Almost two thirds of them believe the ODPM had shown poor understanding of their organisations’ priorities and more than four out of ten described the management of the programme as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.Results from a survey of more than 260 e-Government practitioners from around 200 separate organisations leave the ODPM standing accused of serious failings in its handling of the local government e-enablement drive. The investigation was conducted earlier this month by Public Sector Forums, the independent network of e-Government professionals.

Respondents said the Department had presided incompetently from the centre over a “monumental waste of money” and “an artificial PR exercise”. They also felt it had failed to co-ordinate the Local e-Gov programme adequately, leading to large-scale duplicated effort and resulting in lessons learned being lost. Further, the IT specialists said the ODPM created a multitude of conflicting central targets, enforced blanket targets which sometimes led to public services getting worse, encouraged a ‘box-ticking’ approach to meeting targets that often meant little improvement had actually been delivered by councils and spent more than 80 million pounds on an excessive number of National Projects, the results of which were mostly too late to be of any benefit to councils.

Answers to open questions were overwhelmingly critical with only a small minority of the IT managers offering favourable or supportive comments. Three-quarters of those questioned said the Department’s National Projects had been “poor value for money” and more than a third thought the Prime Minister’s target to e-enable all council services by 2005 had actually hindered their council’s e-Government efforts. Only 42 per cent believed it had helped. Three quarters of the managers had used one or more of the National Project outputs but for 18 of the 20 Projects explored in the survey, the majority reported using none of the products.

More than a third of council IT managers said funding was still the biggest barrier to e-Government. Other obstacles included lack of internal ownership, strategy and thinking within councils and the culture change needed for business transformation.

PSF believes its report is the largest and most thorough so far into the views of those at the ‘sharp end’ of implementing e-Government.